The name Solito for Evergreen’s latest whitewater solo boat was literally pulled out of a hat. Before the new solo boat was about to be released last spring, Mountain Equipment Co-op ran a contest for its members to suggest names, the prize being a shiny new Evergreen Whatchamacallit. More than 5,000 names were dropped in boxes across the country and then short-listed to eight by a panel of judges. Wakefield, Quebec, resident Patrick Hunt is the proud owner of the very first Solito.
Evergreen Canoe Company is more commonly known among whitewater canoeists for their Starburst, a highly rockered, 17-foot river tripper, than it is for solo playboats. Six years ago or so, Evergreen acquired the rights to produce the Starburst, Prowler and Sunburst II, formally Blue Hole Canoe models. Along comes canoe designer John Graye shopping a new boat design and Evergreen has themselves a solo boat.
The Solito falls into the same category as the Esquif Zoom and Pyranha Prelude, short but still a full-bodied open boat. These designs are great surfers, quick to pivot, ideal for small rivers and technical moves. It’s the type of boat you grow into with a little experience.
If you’ve hung around open canoes for a while you’ll take one look at the Solito and say “cut-down Ocoee.” When the Dagger Ocoee was the hottest boat, paddlers were cutting sections from the middle of the hull and joining the two ends back together with epoxy. Great idea except that it removes the widest, most stable part of the canoe. The Solito is flat-bottomed with sharp chines and sharp bow and stern like the Ocoee, but wider, less flared and 13 inches shorter. So maybe not really like the Ocoee, but closer to that than anything else.
Although our test model looked practically new you can see and feel that the wide, flat bottom is oil canning between your knees. Sitting in it you can push the hull down into the water, which means that the water pressure is pushing up on the hull. Roll upside down and your weight really draws the hull in. What this means for performance is hard to tell, as you can’t paddle the boat any other way. With a more rigid hull, the Solito should be faster, and should also be crisper handling. Evergreen has been adjusting the specification of the Royalex sheets they use to stiffen it up, and the new hulls are supposed to be much better.
If the Solito was ours, we’d try moving the thwarts toward the centre of the boat and try bringing them in an inch or so. Sometimes drawing a boat in at the gunwales will cause the bottom to flex, tighten up and be more convex, which in the Solito would be a good thing. A rounder hull should make it faster and being narrower at the gunwales would make it easier to paddle. But this will make it initially more tippy and reduce the amount of flare, robbing its secondary stability. We’d also drill out the rivets and screw on some ash or cherry gunwales.
It seems like we’re being picky, but not really. The Solito is a great little boat that will suit a large number of paddlers, we’re just dreaming of making it our own. And we know from the Ocoee days that this particular shape is tons of fun to paddle and play around with.
- Material: Royalex
- Length: 9’ 11”
- Width: 28”
- Depth: 14”
- Gunwales: Vinyl
- Weight: 45 lbs (as tested with available Mike Yee Outfitting and bags)
- MSRP: $1,349 CAD, not outfitted
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